After hinting months ago that he would scale down his role with The Tonight Show, Kevin Eubanks announced on Monday's show that he would step down as Jay Leno's bandleader, a role he's played for 18 years.
Conan O'Brien going to TBS
The announcement may have been the reason Leno made no mention in his monologue of Monday's other late-night news: Conan O'Brien's move to TBS. Though Leno congratulated Masters winner Phil Mickelson, then new grandfather Brett Favre, he made no mention of O'Brien, who surrendered The Tonight Show to Leno rather than agree to move the show to 12:05.
O'Brien's news outshone Eubanks' same-day announcement, and Leno may have avoided mentioning it so as not to take yet more of Eubanks' spotlight.
Is Kevin Eubanks leaving The Tonight Show?
"It has been a pleasure. You've been a great friend and really supportive," Leno said. "When those jokes die, I gotta look to you, man."
"After 18 years of playing America in to commercials, I'm gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song," Eubanks said.
Leno said Eubanks would leave after six weeks.
Leno has argued that NBC let both him and O'Brien down by canceling Leno's prime-time Jay Leno Show and returning him to the 11:35 p.m. timeslot.
An NBC rep told TVGuide.com Monday that Leno had no comment on O'Brien's new show.